Lavender & Peonies: Another French Country Wedding
This was the wedding of a joyful young bride named Alix, who had lived in France and wanted her celebration to reflect her enthusiasm for everything she loved about that country.
Alix and her mother wanted flowers for the bridal party only, as they were planning to handle the making of bouquets for church and reception themselves. Normally, I don’t like to take on such a small project because it isn’t worth all the time, stress and effort involved (pretty much the same as for a bigger wedding, but with far less opportunity to make any profit), but we were just ending a run of six weddings on six hot summer weekends and we were exhausted, so a small job like this one sounded like a fun diversion to me. (I know, it sounds crazy but flowers are not only my work, they’re also my play!)
And because I really liked the bride and her mom – AND was intrigued by the challenge of the gorgeous bouquets they wanted, I said yes.
In our first planning meeting, the bride-to-be showed me a photo of a breathtaking bridal bouquet unlike any I had ever seen — let alone created. It was bursting with huge white ruffled peonies, clusters of fresh lavender flowers and violet-colored spray roses.
Alix made it very clear to me that besides creating this exact bouquet for her, the only other thing she really cared about was that there be lavender and more lavender in all the rest of the bouquets. Although I questioned my ability to create that gorgeous bridal bouquet, adding lavender to everything else was something I knew I could easily accomplish.
Planning and Making Lists
1 Bridal bouquet
1 Tossing bouquet
6 Bridesmaid bouquets
2 Flower girl halos
2 Flower balls for the flower girls
2 mothers & 5 grandmothers
Groom + 10 other men
As always, I carefully estimated the quantities of flowers I would need for the job and made my trip to the San Francisco flower market to pick up all those luscious flowers.
I was told that the local growing season had just ended, it was too early for imports, and the lavender supply was very sparse.
But this was the bride’s main request! Where was I going to get enough beautiful fresh lavender to make her wish come true?
This was one of those scary situations that come up frequently in my wedding work, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.
Remember, fresh flowers are a highly perishable commodity, and they are subject to many unpredictable and hard-to-control factors — pest infestations and quarantines, for instance, and most frequently weather conditions (drought, too much rain, hurricanes, etc.). Things the average person would never think of.
Once, I had ordered a huge crate of fern – maybe 30 bunches – that was to be the main greenery in a big wedding job, and when I went to pick up my order, I was told to my dismay that the fern crop had been decimated by an enormous hurricane in Florida, where that specific fern is grown – so they didn’t have any, and neither did anyone else at the market or anywhere on the west coast! As upsetting as it was to get this news, this is a florist’s reality, and because of it, I have learned to think on my feet and be ready to switch gears at a moment’s notice.
A stroke of serendipity
So – what could I do about the lavender that was so important to the bride? In a marvelous stroke of serendipity, I suddenly remembered that there were masses of lavender bushes in full flower growing in the open space near our house! And so it happened that just after dawn the next morning, while the early birds and the busy bees provided background music, my daughter and I found ourselves strolling nonchalantly across the street with clippers in hand, where we were able to harvest a huge bagful of beautiful lavender that had been right under our noses!
I was so excited! It felt as if we’d been transported to the lavender fields of Provence, and I knew that now I could fulfill my promise to the bride and she would have fresh lavender in all her bouquets.
As we picked, I noticed that even this beautiful wild lavender was just passing its peak, and if our timing had been off by just one day more, we couldn’t have used any of it. That is not just serendipity, I have come to know that it is truly Divine intervention!
Morning of the wedding
In some areas of my life I am an obsessive planner, which is a good thing because in wedding work you have to be! But sometimes, no matter how carefully I estimate, I seriously miscalculate the amount of T*I*M*E it will take to get the job finished. Unfortunately for our stress levels, this was one of those times.
I remember waking up at 5:50 a.m. that summer day (an hour later than I’d planned), being very calm (not normal for the morning of a wedding), and thinking I had it all under control and could easily get everything finished.
But when I went out to take an inventory of what we’d completed and what remained, I realized that in our exhaustion the night before and anxious to get at least a few hours’ sleep, we had left a HUGE AMOUNT undone!!!
We had to be in the van driving to the delivery sites in a very short 4 hours, and still had to create or finish:
- 2 Baby’s breath halos for the flower girls’ heads (3 hrs!)
- Complete a bunch of corsages… so time-consuming!
- And finish all 6 bridesmaid bouquets, wrapping their stems with burlap ribbon, adding pearls to the handles and doing the final finishing (45-60 min at least!)
Then we had to have time to photograph all the bouquets – an absolute must, after which we then would have to pack every bouquet carefully for the delivery (30-40 min)
With two of us working, the amount of time we have doubles — but there are always those lurking “unpredictables” and this was cutting it way too close! Even writing about it now, knowing we made it, I still get chills thinking how close we came to disaster.
Working at maximum speed, and with the help of some unseen angels, we managed to complete everything — with NOT 2 MINUTES to spare before we had to rush off down the road to make the deliveries half an hour away!
These are the times when I become profoundly aware that when I agree to design and create a bride’s wedding flowers, I willingly accept the responsibility for doing something that could turn out amazingly and bring joy to a lot of people – or on the other hand, if I fail in any way at all – especially in not delivering the flowers on time (!), I also have the ability to create a major catastrophe that could bring stress and disappointment to a bride on the day of her dreams.
And yet, my love for this flower work impels me to take that risk and say “Yes” time after time.
When we arrived at the bride’s family home, we stepped inside to a flurry of pre-wedding activity, with makeup artists putting last-minute touches on bridal party faces, helpful relatives bustling in and out searching for missing dyed-to-match shoes and checking off lists, little dogs barking and chasing, and other elements of chaos, all overlaid by the sounds of soothingly beautiful French music wafting through the house.
we drove off down the road again to make our second stop, where we would deliver boutonnieres to the groom and his men.
As we drove up, the cute guys in their handsome gray suits were already out by the barn with the anxious photographer, ready to have their pictures taken. We grabbed the last of the coolers and rushed out to pin boutonnieres on lapels as groomsmen started to pose for the camera.
Often, as part of our job, we get to stay around to catch a glimpse of the wedding ceremony, and it’s an exhilarating experience to watch the bride and her bridal party gliding down the aisle carrying the flowers we have worked so long and hard to create. I’ve been doing this work for so long that I’ve almost gotten over the scariest part – the holding of my breath and the hoping and praying that some flower-disaster doesn’t happen right before my eyes, specifically that the bouquets don’t start shredding and falling apart as they’re carried down the aisle….
Note: I’m happy to say this has never once happened in all the 400+ weddings I’ve completed, but there’s always that possibility…
For this wedding, since all we had done were the bridal party flowers, we weren’t around to witness the ceremony. But I did get to have my favorite moment of all – that special moment when I present the glowing, blissful bride with her beautiful bouquet!
This is the greatest reward of every wedding I do. It’s that moment of pure joy and delight when The Bride sees the bouquet of her dreams for the first time. It is my favorite moment of all, and it’s why I keep saying “Yes!”